The New Yorker magazine will, next week, publish its issue with a cover of Bert and Ernie from Sesame Street cuddling in front of the telly, watching the Supreme Court decision on DOMA and Prop 8. That has led to fierce criticism from, among others, liberal magazines like Slate. Slate’s criticism of it is quite offensive.
When I read the post by June Thomas I was actually quite angry, because sometimes the left is no friend of the LGBT, and often I forget that. It wasn’t that long ago when working class lads took the pooftahs out behind the pub to “sort them”, and then after they went to the Union meetings or the Labour local council meeting to engage in progressive and leftist politics. These days, with the rhetoric coming from the official channels of the left, it’s easy to forget this past – until it rears its ugly head like in this comment from Thomas.
That’s not the only lesson Bert and Ernie have to impart. You see, straight America, there’s a difference between same-sex friends and gay lovers. Does America contain households in which lovers pass themselves off as best pals? No doubt. And as prejudice against gays and lesbians fades, more of these ambiguously gay couples will declare themselves. But that doesn’t mean that every pair of cohabiting friends is madly making out on a nightly basis.
Bert and Ernie clearly love each other. But does Ernie suck Bert’s cock? I don’t think so.
I am not gay because I have sex with Mark, another man. I have sex with Mark, another man, because I am gay. Can you see the difference? The sex does not make me gay. Being gay defines the sex. I would still be gay if I was asexual, or celibate, or believed in the silly abstinence until marriage. I am gay because I have fallen in love with another man, and I would still love Mark even if we never had sex.
I don’t have a hang-up about sex, and I don’t think it is anything to be ashamed of – or for that matter put on a pedestal. But from some quarters, it seems like the only distinguishing thing about gay men is the sex. So, therefore these sexually repressed people react to a fairly innocuous image like that cover and draw crass, crude and vulgar conclusions based on it. Then they trumpet that vulgarity across the world from the front pages, and people don’t react to it.
It is offensive. It is reductive. It is marginalizing. And it in effect says that men can not show affection to each other without wanting to involve their penises. We expect this from the far right Christians. Not from leftists! It is also sexist and misandrist.
When Kermit and Miss Piggy appeared on Good Morning America on March 13th in 2012, no columnist in any serious magazine or newspaper objected on the grounds that Kermit had his finger on Miss Piggy’s clitoris. Do us the courtesy of treating this with the same silence, or with the same amused non-sexist nonchalance, Miss Thomas.